Category: politics

Trump as Empire Builder?

Numerous prominent Republicans have long suggested that Donald Trump is unwilling to release his tax information because he’s hiding something important, maybe even a “bombshell”. Perhaps his reticence is about having an even lower effective tax rate than the one Mitt Romney revealed in 2012 or using the kind of barely legal tax havens he’s bashed in the past. In an attempt to head off the kind of controversy that now swirls around Trump, National Review published a piece declaring that if “Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain” from voting for him. The implications were that something devious or even sinister lurks in the paper trail.

 

Now that we're just a few weeks away from Election Day, Trump has now offered to trade his tax returns for Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails while still pretending his audit status prevents him from releasing his returns. He hinted that he might not actually even pay taxes at all!

 

In the first Presidential debate, Clinton raised a host of speculative theories about why Trump refuses to make his tax returns public. My theory is much simpler. See, I think the only thing that might truly diminish Trump for his supporters is his bottom line number. How much money does he actually have?

 

We’ve all seen the story play out before. A celebrity appears to have an immense amount of wealth but it’s illusory. Michael Jackson used to own an amusement park house for goodness sake!

 

This is why perception matters:

 

Trump’s primary appeal is his status as an empire builder. He describes himself as a winner and people believe it. After all, the strongest association we have with Trump is as ‘rich person’. In an America devoid of culturally significant dynastic families, it’s people like Donald Trump and the Kardashians who represent the 21st century image of American wealth. (We know nothing about most of the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys and Rockefellers in our midst today.) We’ve already looked behind the curtain at the Kardashians and seen the ‘momager’ Kris Jenner herself. We know she’s the wizard.

 

We have no idea what we’ll see when the curtain is pulled back on the ‘Trumpire’. If there’s far less wealth than we’ve been led to believe, it will be disastrous for Trump. Not because he’s funding his own campaign, despite what he says. But because the core premise of his candidacy will be gone. It’s only his wealth that resonates as successful. Without it, he’s just another reality show star with bad hair and a bizarrely attached following.

 

Now that I think about it, I wonder if Todd Chrisley would have been a better choice?

 

 

-FDO

 

 This is an update of a post I wrote several months ago.

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the referendum of history, Americans will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this decisive moment. What story will you tell? Will that story be true?

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Perception Matters- Trump as Empire Builder

Some prominent Republicans have suggested that Donald Trump is unwilling to release his tax information because he’s hiding something important, maybe even a “bombshell”. Perhaps his reticence is about having the kind of effective tax rate Mitt Romney revealed in 2012 or using the tax havens he’s bashed in the past. National Review published a piece declaring that if “Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain” from voting for him. The implications are that something devious or even sinister lurks in the paper trail.

 

My theory is much simpler. I think the only thing that might make a difference for Trump supporters is the bottom line number. How much money does he have?

 

We’ve all seen the story play out before. A celebrity appears to have an immense amount of wealth but it’s illusory. Michael Jackson used to own an amusement park house for goodness sake!

 

This is why perception matters:

 

Trump’s primary appeal is his status as an empire builder. He describes himself as a winner and people believe it. After all, the strongest association we have with Trump is as ‘rich person’. In an America devoid of culturally significant dynastic families, it’s people like Donald Trump and the Kardashians who represent the 21st century image of American wealth. (We know nothing about most of the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys and Rockefellers in our midst today.) We’ve already looked behind the curtain at the Kardashians and seen the ‘momager’ Kris Jenner herself. We know she’s the wizard.

 

We have no idea what we’ll see when the curtain is pulled back on the ‘Trumpire’. If there’s far less wealth than we’ve been led to believe, it will be disastrous for Trump. Not because he’s funding his own campaign, despite what he says. But because the core premise of his candidacy will be gone. It’s only his wealth that resonates as successful. Without it, he’s just another reality show star with bad hair and a bizarrely attached following. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Kris Jenner will show up at the Republican convention?

 

 

-FDO

 

 

In the New World

 

As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to share this poem I have had the good fortune to read at some Black History events.

 

"In the New World" was initially inspired by the 2008 Presidential campaign. It continues to be inspired by the loving, good works of people all around the world. We are becoming the change.

 

-FDO

 

 

You can feel the changes

As the people begin to move

From Earth’s every corner

Bringing with them hope and strength

Knowing their dreams can soon take flight

In the new world they will create

 

You can see the changes

As the people begin to rise

Loosed from the shackles of fear

Breaking the bonds of ignorance

Rejecting the power of separation

In the new world they will create

 

You can hear the changes

As the people begin to sing

Songs of courage and strength

New as a baby’s cry

Old as the language of life

In the new world they will create

 

You can be the changes

As the people begin to build

Bridges from one to all

Forged from peace and justice

Raised on love and truth

In the new world we will create

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2008

 

 

Fool Me Once, or, Yes, Progressives Need to Vote for the Democratic Nominee in 2016!

  

It’s rare that I write in direct response to someone else’s thinking but I have to make an important exception today. It’s this article in which Ben Spielberg claims that voting for Hillary Clinton would do little more than represent “the lesser-of-two-evils mentality.” Spielberg is convinced that if Bernie Sanders loses the Democratic primary, progressives should refuse to vote for Clinton in the general election in an effort “to enact fundamental change to a broken political system”. I disagree with this sentiment profoundly.

 

My disagreement comes mostly because I so vividly remember the 2000 Presidential election and the horrific aftermath from which we are still recovering. Yes, Vice President Al Gore was a poor campaigner. Yes, he should have let President Bill Clinton campaign for him. Yes, he should have won his home freaking state. Yes, the Supreme Court made a decision that will be to its eternal shame. (Which they knew AS they were making the Gore v. Bush ruling.) All those things are true.

 

It is ALSO true that lots of people voted for Ralph Nader instead of Gore in for the same reasons being suggested in this piece. In, at least, Florida and New Hampshire, the Nader vote tipped the state to Governor George W. Bush. Gore also had to spend lots of additional campaign resources to win Oregon, New Mexico and the Upper Midwest because Nader ran so strongly there.

 

To suggest, as Spielberg does, that there so many similarities between Clinton and the GOP that progressives shouldn't pull the lever for her is baffling. How about potential Supreme Court nominations, safeguarding LGBQT rights, crafting a reasonable immigration policy, preserving the existence of Planned Parenthood, responding to income inequality, slowing global warming, refusing to have a President who talks casually about indiscriminate bombing and avoiding the nightmare of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan running Congress unchecked? Don't progressives think those issues matter enough to choose "the lesser of two evils"?

 

Why, in fact, do so many on the left revile Secretary Clinton so much? Why is it that so many on the left love Bill and tolerate Hill? Is it because we've also bought into the fictional narratives Fox News has created about her? Do progressives believe the rumors and lies about her more than we want to admit? Or have Americans on the left simply accepted the same 'Who do I wanna have a beer with?' concept that many conservatives have?

 

If you consider yourself a progressive and decide to vote for Jill Stein because that’s the right choice for you, go for it. Of course, that’s your right and privilege. But please, don't let it be because you pretend to think there's not much difference between a world led by Hillary Clinton as opposed to one led by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

 

We went down that devastating road in 2000. If we do it again in 2016, shame on us. Shame on us, all.

 

 

 

When Tomorrow Comes #2

I posted this poem just a few weeks ago but since the Recorder article about me and my son, Jake, just arrived, I'm sharing it again. I hope that it will help remind someone that America really is moving in the right direction. Fits, starts, traumas, abuses and all, we are moving toward a better future.

 

FDO

 

I'm seeing integration

expressed in the million different ways

that define America

in the 21st century

 

Neighbors standing across a fence

my almostkindabuddy

prodding the little girl in his arms to smile

while speaking to me

 

Sharing stories of dogs and kids,

potholes and the weather

The small, simple recognitions of community

That are welcome prophecies of transformation

Fleeting, powerful moments of joy and recognition

begging for sustainability and sanction

 

Oh, if only our churches

and clubs and families

would do the unthinkable, could somehow do

the impossible, next generation inevitable

hard work of embrace

 

Ah, the sweet embrace that’s waiting

To be given and claimed

By untold millions

And my own White son,

still learning to be a man

and fully human

 

 

Needing to be told over and over

You are not alone

because Michael Jackson was right

and you, my child and most precious creation

 

 

are the hope and future of our people,

of all the people

whose hard earned righteousness

will lead us,

must lead us, to the glorious shore

of a future

authentically prophesied

with love and deepest understanding

 

Mijo, you ARE the Dream

I only wish I could explain it,

without crying

 

I'm still worried you might confuse my tears

with sadness though really

its all joy

 

So much joy

for the man you will be

and the life you will live

 

My sweat mingles with those unavoidable tears

And my laughter and my envy

and my love and my joy for you

because I wish I could live to know it

 

Still, I am free enough for now

 

In the sacred vestment of love

I am blessed to be the poet

Celebrating the poetry

 

And I thank you for becoming a poem

Of the future

Even more than a prophecy

The clear vision of today

You will help to create

And manifest with your life

And your vision

And every tomorrow

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2015

 

 

Rejecting RFRA

 

Today I've seen lots of folks suggesting that RFRA is unimportant because there are so many other laws like it. I reject that argument for a few reasons.

 

As usual, application is what matters most about the law. How will laws be used in our lives?

 

Consider that the 14th amendment was originally intended to provide former slaves with full citizenship. It's now applied in dozens of different ways to ensure "the equal protection of the laws" regardless of condition. This expansion of original intent happens all the time.

 

A big part of what scares me about RFRA can be found in the NUVO article below. We already know how this law is intended to be applied. There is no mystery about it. It is clear that the driving force behind this law is exactly what everyone has said: Christian businesses will now have legal protections to allow them to choose which people can use their publicly offered services.  It is, at best, disingenuous for Governor Pence to pretend that there are no possibilities for bigotry associated with this law. Advance America specifically advocated for RFRA to be used in this fashion.

 

The other scary part is that Governor Pence was perfectly aware of the backlash that would accompany his signature and signed it anyway. He's made a clear choice  indicating where his deepest priorities lie and they are not to be found in the 'good for business' mantra he's claimed in the past. Attempting to use RFRA to attack ObamaCare in his public statement indicates that today's signing was, at its core, a calculated political strategy.

 

My hope is that Hoosiers recognize that we can make signing RFRA a losing political strategy. We can do that with our votes, petitions, voices, phone calls and dollars. Today, Indiana made a deeply retrograde move but it doesn't have to be a permanent step back. Indeed, I am confident that it won't be.

 

America is a vastly different place than it was 20 years ago, as is Indiana itself. More of us than ever recognize the need for the 14th Amendment's great concept of "equal justice for all". Social justice is a broader concern than ever.

 

Great gains have been made recently and will continue to be made as long as they are demanded by those of us who emphasize our shared humanity over the divisive politics of fearful hatred. History makes it clear that love wins in the end. This is so because we, the people, will eventually choose love.

 

Let us make that kind of history repeat itself.  Here, in Indiana. Soon. Let love win.

 

FDO

 

 

Reflecting on John Lewis

 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma march I want to take a moment to reflect on the life and career of John Lewis, one of my personal heroes.

 

“Registering to vote is an act of commitment to the American ideal. It is patriotic. The Federal Government must decide whether it wants to let Southern Negroes register. It must make that choice this summer, or make us all witnesses to the lynching of democracy.”

 

-John Lewis

 

 

John Lewis was a young college student when he got his start as an activist in the Nashville Student Movement. Lewis was often viewed as the prodigy of the movement as he was the youngest of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement by a full decade.

 

 

As a co-founder and an early chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis first became a national figure during the Freedom Rides of 1961. It was during this endeavor to desegregate public facilities in the South that Lewis was beaten so badly many feared his death was imminent.

 

Continuing his leadership of SNCC, Lewis was one of the speakers at the legendary 1963 March on Washington. SNCC worked throughout the South to develop Freedom Schools that trained nonviolent activists and 1964’s Freedom Summer efforts at registering potential Black voters.

 

Lewis was also one of the leaders of the Selma, Alabama march now referred to as “Bloody Sunday” because of the brutal beating Lewis and many other nonviolent protestors received at the hands (and clubs) of the Alabama State Police. It is this march we celebrated last weekend.  

 

As the sixties came to an end, Lewis became deeply involved in electoral politics. Initially, he became a prominent advisor for Robert F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign in 1968. For the last quarter century, Lewis has served his country as a member of Congress from Georgia.

 

In some respects, Lewis is considered the conscience of the national Democratic party. It was Lewis' decision to switch his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary that opened the floodgates of superdelegates declaring Obama their preferred candidate.

 

Lewis continues to fight for human rights to this day. His efforts to pursue justice have extended well beyond his original pursuit of racial equality to include a whole host of social concerns. Still, he is widely perceived as the most important living link to the Civil Rights Movement.

  

I continue to be grateful for John Lewis. You should be too.

 

 

FDO

 

 

Justified Use of Force

 

Every year there’s a new one

A Diallo, Bell, Brown

Ford, Garner, Rice or me

 

Clamoring loudly

Broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

But no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Soon most are hoping for the noise to stop

And the questions to disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

 © Gayle Force Press 2015

 

 

Justified Use of Force

 

This summer I told a friend that I couldn't write any more poems about police brutality. So here's an old one. Again. I initially wrote this poem in 2002 and when performing it in public through the years have changed/updated the names. Mike Brown  Eric Garner is only the most recent addition to the litany of blood.

 

 

Justified Use of Force

   

Every month there’s a new one

A Diallo, Bell, Brown

Ford, Garner, Rice or me

 

Clamoring loudly

Broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

But no one’s forced to answer

 

With sympathy’s short half-life

Soon most are hoping for the noise to stop

And the questions to disappear once again

 

Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2014